Join us as we study through 2 Corinthians verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Bible Study Lesson – Free Online Lesson With Questions
I. New creatures in Christ (16-17)
II. Ambassadors of Christ (18-20)
III. The sacrifice of Christ (21)
I. New creatures in Christ (16-17)
- What does Paul mean that he doesn’t regard anyone from a worldly point of view?
- How did they regard Christ?
- How might someone with a worldly view regard Christ?
- What does it mean to be “in Christ?”
- In what way is someone in Christ a new creation?
- Does this transformation happen instantly or step by step?
- How are you different after salvation?
2 Corinthians 4:18 – As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Ephesians 4:22-24 – To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
1. We regard no one according to the flesh – The way Paul viewed people changed after his salvation. Before he judged people according to the world’s standards. A successful person was wealthy, educated, respectable, and had a good position. That is how the world judges people.
We used to live on the sixth floor of an apartment building. Normally we would take the elevator up and down. It never ceased to amaze me the kind of questions I received from neighbors just in the span of the twenty seconds it took to ride down. In only twenty seconds I could be asked: “How much money do you make? Did you buy your apartment? How much did you pay for it? What is your job?” These types of questions were often used to make snap judgments about a person’s success or status. Such people were judging according to the flesh. They viewed things through a worldly perspective, placing value on things that God does not value.
Paul did this prior to salvation (as we all do). But no more. In verse 14 he says that, “the love of Christ controls us.” And he goes on to say that Jesus “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves.”
These things are not true of unbelievers. Unbelievers are controlled not by a love for Christ, but by love for success. Believers, on the other hand, are to live for Christ.
Paul and his team viewed the Corinthians through a different lens. And in like manner he probably hoped that they would view him not through the perspective of the worldly false teachers, but according to a spiritual perspective, God’s standard.
2. We once regarded Christ according to the flesh – Prior to salvation, Paul (and his team) viewed even Jesus through a worldly perspective.
Reflect: How would the world view Jesus?
Jesus was poor. He did not belong to the ruling elite. The mob turned against him. In the end he was mocked, beaten, whipped, and afflicted, all without defending himself. Finally he suffered the ultimate shame, crucifixion. He hung naked on the cross, the object of scorn and derision. Was he successful? Did He look like a Messiah?
Obviously according to the world’s standards He did not. It looked as if His mission failed. He died poor, alone, in suffering, as a criminal.
But according to God’s perspective, He was successful. Jesus fulfilled the entire law perfectly. And He accomplished the most important mission of all time in reconciling man to God and providing a way for our sins to be forgiven. If you regard Jesus according the flesh you will reject him as Lord just as Paul did originally. But when we come to Christ, God replaces the lens over our eyes, giving us an entirely new perspective. And we see Christ as He is, the perfect Lamb of God, the King of Kings, the one who lovingly gave Himself for us.
3. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation – To be “in Christ” means to have a relationship with Him. This is only possible when a person trusts in Jesus as His Savior, repenting of his sins, and committing to follow Him as Lord. When that happens, God makes that person a new creation.
Note that says “anyone.” It is not only for good or respectable people. Every person, rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, criminal or law-abiding can come to Christ. Salvation is available for all.
The one who is in Christ is a new creation. Jesus described it as being “born again.”
John 3:3 – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Reflect: What does it mean that a believer is a new creation? How does he change? What about his old value systems and priorities?
Being born again or a new creation show the depth of change in a believer’s life after coming to Christ. It is not a superficial change. It is not as simple as turning over a new leaf.
Ezekiel 36:26 – I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
God will regenerate our hearts, giving us a heart of flesh. Our old value systems, priorities, goals, motivations, and desires are replaced with new ones in line with our relationship with Christ. This does not mean that sin or temptation vanish. It does not mean that you will not struggle with the same temptations as before (Romans 7).
But God will give you an entirely new perspective. You will view these things with a different lens. Coming to Christ does not end the struggle; it starts it. And you don’t enter this struggle alone. He gives you all the resources you need to be an overwhelming conqueror (Romans 8:37).
Another way to look at this is from the spiritual perspective. Our bodies are not destroyed and made anew. After salvation, we have the same flesh, which is born of sin. Prior to Christ, there is nothing we can do to please Him. All of our good deeds are as filthy rags in His sight, because they are done with wrong motivations (Isaiah 64:6). When we come to Christ, He gives us spiritual life. For the first time we are able to please God. For the first time we are able to love God. Our spirit is no longer dead and separated from Him.
Sharing: Can you share an example of how God has changed you after salvation?
II. Ambassadors of Christ (18-20)
- All what is from God?
- Explain the concept of reconciliation between God and people.
- What is the ministry of reconciliation?
- Why would God give it to us?
- How do we accomplish this?
- Why are we called ambassadors of Christ?
- What should we do as His ambassadors?
- How should the knowledge that we are His ambassadors guide how we live and interact with the world around us?
Romans 5:10 – For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Colossians 1:20 – And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Romans 10:13-15 – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Acts 20:24 – But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Isaiah 6:8 – And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
1. All this is from God – He is the one who makes us a new creation. It should not be a surprise since He is the creator! Since He is the one who began this good work in us, then we cannot finish it by our own power.
Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Application: Give the glory and the thanks to Him for what He has done. And continue to rely on Him for help. Do not trust in your own strength to bring you through temptation.
2. Through Christ reconciled us to Himself of – God desires reconciliation with us, His creation. He took the initiative in bringing this about by sending His Son Jesus as a mediator to sacrifice Himself for us and bring us to the Father.
Application: To be reconciled to others, you may need to take the first step.
3. Gave us the ministry of reconciliation…entrusting to us the message of reconciliation – God could have used any number of possible methods for taking the gospel message to the world. He chose to use people. It is a ministry. Ministry is service. God calls us to serve the world by sharing with them this all-important message.
Reflect: Why did God choose people rather than another method (such as angels)? How is it helpful for our spiritual walk to share the gospel with others? How is it helpful for the recipient to hear from a real person?
Note what our ministry is. It is a ministry of reconciliation. That is the ultimate goal. It is not:
- A ministry of persuasion (convincing of intellectual facts)
- A ministry of judgment (we are better than you)
We care for the heart. It is not about bringing people to intellectual assent to facts. It is not about bringing people to a new set of traditions. It is about introducing to a person, Jesus. And through Him, they can have personal relationship with God. They were enemies of God. Now they can have relationship with Him. That is the core of the gospel.
Application: When you share, remember why you are sharing. It is to bring people into a relationship with God. Apart from that personal relationship there is no reconciliation.
4. Therefore we are ambassadors of Christ – In this famous verse we see a very important role of believers. We are Christ’s ambassadors. Knowing this, should affect how we live and act in this world.
An ambassador is a very important position. A foreign country’s primary point of contact is with the other country’s ambassador. Here are some of the responsibilities of an ambassador:
- To live in the foreign country and understand it’s people and customs, but not to become one of them. As Christ’s ambassadors, we live in this world and understand the problems they face, but we are not to be like the world.
- To be the spokesman for taking the message of one’s home country to the foreign country. An ambassador doesn’t have authority to craft his own message. He is a representative and must convey that message correctly without miscommunication while also being humble. As believers, we are God’s spokesman. We are called to take His message to this world. We must not change the message or insert our own. Instead we should clearly and humbly communicate God’s message.
- To be mindful continually that their actions reflect on their country. A poor ambassador can bring shame, create distrust, or start a war. As believers, our actions are important. People are watching us to see how we live. We are to shine the light of Christ, attracting people to Him through our good deeds.
- To keep peace or establish diplomatic relations. As believers, we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. Our job is to bring peace between God and people in the world through the gospel.
III. The sacrifice of Christ (21)
- What does it mean that Jesus was made to “be sin?”
- How can a believer “become righteousness?”
Romans 5:12,18 – Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
1 Peter 2:24 – He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Philippians 3:9 – And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith。
1. For our sake – Everything Jesus did was for us.
2. He made him who knew no sin – Jesus was completely sinless in every way. He alone of all the Jews who ever lived kept the Old Testament law 100% of the time, fulfilling all righteousness. Jesus is the only person who has ever lived who knew no sin. Never giving into temptation, He did not experience the guilt and shame of sin.
That is why He could be the perfect sacrifice. On the cross, Jesus substituted Himself for us. He became as if He was the one who had done all of the sins and God punished Jesus for those instead of us. This is the principle of imputation. Our sins were imputed to Him. And His righteousness is imputed to us.
Note that Jesus did not actually become a sinner. But He was treated by the Father as if He were one.
Have you ever made a really good trade? God offers the best deal imaginable. You can trade all your sins and the eternal punishment in store for those sins and in exchange receive the righteousness of God’s Son, the only one who has ever lived a perfectly holy human life.
Application: If you have made that trade already, then thank God for His great mercy. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
3. So that we might become the righteousness of God – This is the second part of that trade. Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to you. When God looks at you, He will see instead the righteousness of Christ. He won’t see you as the sinner you are, but as made holy by the lamb.
Application: Praise God for His mercy! And resolve once again to live your life in a worthy way, responding to the love He has shown you.
2 Corinthians 1:1-11
2 Corinthians 1:12-24
2 Corinthians 2:1-11
2 Corinthians 2:12-17
2 Corinthians 3:1-6
2 Corinthians 3:7-18
2 Corinthians 4:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:7-12
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
2 Corinthians 5:11-15
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
2 Corinthians 6:1-10
2 Corinthians 6:11-18
2 Corinthians 7:1-5
2 Corinthians 7:6-16
2 Corinthians 8:1-7
2 Corinthians 8:8-15
2 Corinthians 8:16-24
2 Corinthians 9:1-7
2 Corinthians 9:8-15
2 Corinthians 10:1-6
2 Corinthians 10:7-18
2 Corinthians 11:1-15
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
2 Corinthians 12:11-21
2 Corinthians 13
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